Friday, September 18, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

It was a time of change, 2020. A time of silent staring into the corners of the room. You walked down hallways and heard gentle crying. Or a child talking to her doll, explaining (hoping) that everything will be OK. It's just a lot of smoke. It's just a country that is being torn apart. It's just a president who doesn't care. It's just our darker-skinned neighbors being maligned and murdered. It's just pandemic. It will be OK. You hear this coming from an eight-year-old, and it hurts. It burns in your chest. Eight years old is old, man. They're going to remember all of this. They're going to know. 

It's hard to wake up to a nightmare every day, reaching for your phone and hoping things got better. Hoping things get worse? Man, it gets twisted up when you're stuck between destruction and Resurrection. It's like those college relationships you keep trying to fix when what they really need is a long, lonely walk. Let's just say fuck it, and blow the country up. Let's all hug each other and try to understand. Let's start fires and accelerate this shit. Let's bury our heads in the sand. Let's all commit suicide. 

I hear the Trashcan Man laughing all day long, and it's hard to take.

And why did I quit drinking? Seems almost cruel to make someone go through all this fully conscious of what's going on. I'm OD'ing on fear and anger. It's inside me and it's burning me out. It's like when you open an old battery compartment and inside it's just rust and what used to be batteries and you wash your hands real good and throw that shit away. That's what it's like inside me.

And I know that I am one of the fortunate ones. I live in the Bay Area where we try to love each other and be decent humans. I'm white. I'm a man. I'm tall. I'm 42. I have a family. I'm a big, old, white man with a broken heart, who tried telling anyone who would listen that this was coming. 

And here we are. 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Going back to your post, Dan, I find it heart-breaking how badly this all appears and how much it seems that no-one is prepared to put aside their greed and self-interest and work together to root out everything that's bad in the collective world governments who're supposed to be able to see the big picture and override any individuals with sufficient money to influence global policies. They have think-tanks and committees and focus groups for all these things, goddamn it. I just wish someone could make these people look further ahead than the next few financial years. This is something which will most likely destroy our civilisation, if we don't make a collective move soon. As it is, I just hope the rest of us can find a small, quiet place where we can love and be loved and nurse our bruised hearts in peace.

    1. The heart-rending pain here. I feel it. I live it. Man, hug those children hard.

  3. The blue pill’s calling to me. The hand offering it has never been more welcome, the choice it offers giving me the agency to choose between the worlds available. I should make a grab for it, cram it into my mouth and swallow it down as quickly as I can because that may be the last choice which I’ll have an opportunity to make.

    Living on the hell-mouth was never given the lustre of our current situation, the people in Buffy, the Vampire Slayer's Sunnydale largely passive and ignorant of the horrors that threatened them twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. Living in our world, we’re more aware of the dangers that face us, the mass-media and the internet eager to warn us. So what if they choose to sensationalise the risks that we’ll face, there’ll always be an equal number of voices clamouring to be heard, discrediting everything all the others have said, insisting that their message is the solitary word of truth. There is nothing that can’t be faked now, with even inconvertible facts being reframed to suit both sides of the argument. Honesty was the first casualty in this war between the sides, but the fatalities are rising daily, irrespective of whose figures you trust. We should be feeling more outraged about this, this shit-storm of biblical proportions but somehow we’re not; we’re collectively sitting in our happy places in our individual corners, drooling and rocking as though we’re all punch-drunk or lobotomised or deep within a fugue. It’s difficult for any of us to find legitimate ways to make a difference when every option we’re offered will probably make things worse. It’s not like it is in the movies or the popular dystopian novels; there’s no convenient black or white, right or wrong, or good or bad here to be found. There’ll be consequences of every choice we’ll get to make but somehow they all seem to lead nowhere, spiralling down into a darkness shrouding the futility of this system we live within, where freedom is a disguise for servitude and responsibility and debt. We never feel so alone but when we’re with our family and dependants, and we’ll never feel so disenfranchised and remote from hope until we see the guffawing hordes of liars and cheats who’re prospering from the misuse of power.

    This is the world we live within. This is the dystopia, made real.

    1. Sigh. I hear you. I'm waiting for dystopia to be fictional again. Thank you for your words.

    2. Yep. I feel this too. I want to read about fictional dystopias and enjoy it again. Or I want better plot points in reality.

  4. A shadow filled Kate’s doorway.

    “What.” Her voice came out more like a declarative than a question as she pounded away at her keyboard, the soft clicks barely audible above the hum of fluorescent lights and the rattle of the ancient heating system.

    “It’s over.”

    She stopped. Took a deep breath, let it out. So much for her story. She knew what her editor would be calling for, in about five minutes when he got the official announcement, so she pulled up the document for the final update.


    He slumped into the chair next to her desk. Answer enough for her. She resumed typing. Stories might change, but deadlines waited for no man or woman. Especially those of publications whose existence hung by a thread.

    He smelled of hospital disinfectant, of bad coffee, of sweat. He wore the same shirt he’d had on yesterday. And maybe the day before, too. He leaned back, tented his hands together on his chest. “His last words were ‘fuck you.’ He was looking right at me when he said it.”

    Kate looked up, readying a version of “What did you expect after you turned on him?” that wouldn’t sound coldly flippant. But the depth of pain and loss in his eyes stilled her tongue. “I’m sorry.”

    He shrugged. “At least it’s done. Nothing left now but the shouting. And the lawyers, of course.”

    She gazed into the copy on her monitor, imagining that shitshow. Not for the first time, she was grateful that she’d gotten out while she had the chance. Before it could destroy all her credibility. Before she became one more short-skirted blond Barbie doll off the factory line. She was broke, and it was nearly midnight and nearly everyone else in the newsroom had gone home, and while she wasn’t exactly happy, at least she could look into the mirror without hating herself.

    Most of the time.

    “I don’t know what I was thinking,” he said. “That I could try to, I don’t know, justify why I did it. And then, crazy me, to apologize for it.”

    She really felt for him in that moment. He hadn’t been the first to try to make the world see the consequences of what the man was doing, all the pain he was causing—to his staff, his family, all the people he ordered around like living chess pieces in some bizarre plan in his head. Nor had he been the first to come sniveling back, although she would never throw that in her old friend’s face. Not now. Maybe later. But not now.

    “You guys hiring?” he said.

    She lifted a corner of her mouth. “Look around. You think we’re hiring? I’m lucky that I’m still getting paid.”

    “I was joking.” He paused, looked at the ceiling. “Kind of.”

    Her phone rang. She snapped up the receiver. “On it,” she said, and hung up. “I gotta finish this, and a few other things. You want to stick around, get a beer or something?”

    “Yeah. Yeah, sure. Call me when you’re done.” He got up slowly. Drifted toward the door.

    She resumed typing.

    “Hey, Kate?” One hand gripped the doorframe as if it was the only thing holding him up. “What he said to me…that’s off the record, right?”

    “Of course,” she said.

    His footsteps disappeared down the hallway, lost in the sound of her keyboard and the balky HVAC system and the lights. She finished the obit, adding the copy from the two-line official statement, and submitted it to her editor. He quickly responded with his okay and invited her to call it a night.

    She was about to shut down her system but then stopped. She pulled up the obit again, disappointed with the boilerplate quality of it. More would come tomorrow, she was sure, but this was all she could do for now.

    But she could do something else. Her eyes misting over, she made a copy of the document and edited the first paragraph to include “…the former president’s last utterance was to tell his unofficial biographer—a talented journalist and author who is also his son, although the family had disavowed his existence and paid her mother for her silence—to go expletive himself.”

    Then she printed out the file for her dear bereft friend, tucked it in her pocket, shut down her computer and left. Maybe for the last time.

  5. This is excellent. It's so well written and the twist is brilliant. You should be proud of this.

    1. I agree. I had an inkling where we were headed, but you pulled this off so well.


Please leave comments. Good, bad or ugly. Especially ugly.